Archive for the ‘Praise’ Category

In praise of Patrick Kane


honda copy

Guys, I have breaking news, come quick: Patrick Kane is good at hockey. No really, I mean it.

The thing is, Kane has developed into so much more than that. You can make the argument that he might be the most talented hockey player on earth.

Sidney Crosby is obviously The Guy in hockey, but so much of what he does comes from being one of those child prodigies who’s raised to believe that nothing matters other than being the best in the world at your sport. This stuff matters to him, he’s hungry. But if Crosby is Tiger Woods, Kane is Phil Mickelson, casually demonstrating he can do everything the best in the world can do, only he prefers to be an actual human being in the process.

Kane was drafted first overall in 2007, an undersized skill guy with a lot of potential. Well, he reached it. Patrick Kane’s resume at 25 is stunning.

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Taarof and Daniel Alfredsson

Daniel Alfredsson, practicing his "leader" face.

Daniel Alfredsson, practicing his “leader” face.

Postgame scrums are supposed to be boring. No one admits this, of course, because admitting the inanity of the custom would undermine the justification for its persistence, and without its persistence a great many column inches would have to be filled by something else, and no one is quite sure what that would be. So it goes on, game in game out, every extraordinary performance followed up with the same ordinary questions and the same ordinary answers. Players felt good or squeezed their sticks, pucks were got in deep or should have been, small things were done right or need to be worked on: such is the account of every game, as spoken in Scrumese.

After game four between the Senators and Penguins, which Ottawa lost disastrously to put themselves down 3-1, a reporter asked Daniel Alfredsson whether he thought his team would be able to come back to win the series. He asked the question, as all reporters in scrums do, already knowing the answer. In hockey, the correct answer to “Are you, team who is in a bad situation, going to get yourself out of this bad situation and move on to glorious victory?” is “We know we’re good enough to beat them, we just have to take it one night at a time, focus on doing the little things right, and play our game.” It’s a perfectly proper hockey sentiment: confident without being hubristic, with exactly the right sheen of blue-collar lunch-bucket determination. There is absolutely no way to go wrong with that answer. Which is why it was so shocking that Alfredsson chose to pass it up- it was sitting right there, right in front of him, a perfect little piece of traditional home-cooked hockey cliche that everyone would happily eat up- in favor of an entirely unexpected response: “Probably not.”

Alfredsson went on to say more, standard and appropriate things about playing hard and never giving up, context that (as he later complained) was largely ignored, for that “probably not” proved very difficult for people to swallow. It stuck in our throats and stayed there, an exotic morsel that even his supporters couldn’t quite believe they’d been served. Some were offended, some weren’t, but few let the comment pass unnoticed as the great majority of post-game cliches do. These two words alone spawned thousands more, as dozens of commentators and hundreds of fans defended, debated, or condemned Alfredsson’s choice to speak them. They were that controversial.

Unlike most controversial assertions, though, Alfredsson’s “probably not” was not only true, but common knowledge. Literally every single person who heard that statement not only already knew it, but also already agreed with it. If you were God and you decided to spend your time counting all the thoughts thought by people who watched that game, “The Sens probably aren’t going to come back from this” would have been far and away the most popular. Recovering from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series is extremely improbable; everyone knows this. Even people who know nothing about hockey know this. I could ask a ten-year-old Indonesian girl who’s never seen ice outside of a drink if she thinks anyone down 3-1 in any best-of-seven competition is going to win, and she would say “probably not”. It’s not even a hockey thing; it’s just a life thing. It’s a math thing.

We wanted Alfredsson to lie to us. More accurately, we expected him to lie to us, and when he didn’t, some of us were actually pissed off that he didn’t lie to us. People actually wrote outraged blog posts and comments excoriating the man for not telling a blatant, transparent, obvious lie.

Which isn’t surprising. Most of hockey speech is lies.

Or more accurately, most hockey speech is taarof.

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New Jersey Devils v Pittsburgh Penguins

Be honest, non-Devils fans: you’re kinda surprised by New Jersey’s success this year. Even last year, you didn’t consider them one of the better teams in the east, right? It’s not that you thought they were actually bad, it’s just that…c’mon: everyone loves on the Penguins. The Flyers seemed poised to win it all. The Rangers seemed to have all the pieces. The Bruins were just a year removed from a Cup and had barely changed. There were a ton of teams you would’ve put on a pedestal before them, but…there they were. In the Stanley Cup Final, pushing what seemed to be an unstoppable Los Angeles Kings team to Game Six. NOT GLAMOROUS ENOUGH, I thought.

Still…it did feel like they overachieved to get there. Then they lost their star player Zach Parise to unrestricted free agency in the summer, a tough go considering few people considered them an offensive juggernaut (15th in goals-per-game last year). Add to that Brodeur being another year older and yeah…I picked them to miss the playoffs this season. Read the rest of this entry »

In Praise of Shitty Goalies

The author, doing her part to make hockey better by playing net horribly.

The first time I ever played hockey, they put me in net.

It wasn’t ice hockey. It was inline, in tropical heat under a smoggy sky on a concrete rink by the South China Sea. They showed me a tin shed where heap of moldering equipment lay, all of it thin and shoddy, all of it various kinds of broken. There was a glove so big it slid off my fingers and a blocker that didn’t have any fingers left, a mask held together with twist ties and a chest protector with no fastenings at all save one outrageously long length of dangling elastic, which I had to wrap around my torso three times and tie to itself. As I played, it would slowly unwind around my body and pull the plates all askew, leaving scalene slices of my stomach and shoulders exposed. Even a real goalie who knew how to fit all the armor would have had trouble making this stuff function as protection, and I was not a real goalie.

Or maybe I was. If the definition of a goalie is one who stands in the net and tries to stop pucks, then I was a goalie. I was just a really, really, really, really shitty goalie. There are not enough reallys in the world to describe how shitty of a goalie I was. I hung out so far back in my net I’d look down and find I had a foot behind the goal line. I went down when skaters were barely two strides over center. Positioning? Fuck no, I was covering angles so absurd you’d need to invent a new branch of theoretical geometry to measure them. Butterfly? Only if by that you mean something that’s small, delicate, and flutters away at the first sign of danger.

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Nicklas Lidstrom is a good dude

The above photo was posted to the Detroit Red Wings Facebook page. I may be a sap, but I love seeing gestures like this.
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Note there are only three people there

Matt Cooke is having a renaissance of sorts this season. His point totals are roughly the same, but you’ll note that he only has 20 penalty minutes to this point in the season. This is the same Matt Cooke who, one year ago, had been suspended for barely more games than he had actually scored in. He became the face of everything wrong with the modern game. A simple goon who added no value to his team and badly injured key players of other teams.

Fast forward one season and Cooke has been a productive two way player and kept himself out of the doghouse. Those of you who have been watching Cooke this season have been just as shocked with his turnaround as I have, I’m sure.

Today Cooke made some Penguins history as he became the first Pittsburgh player since Mario Lemieux in 1988 to score a shorthanded goal with two guys in the penalty box. It’s official folks, Matt Cooke has erased Mario Lemieux from the books as the most recent holder of a record distinction. Now is the time to head into your improvised bomb shelters.

Look at Cooke’s shorthanded, breakaway beauty. Read the rest of this entry »

Aleksandro Salei, son of Ruslan Salei, takes in the pregame with his dad's former team

For all that has been talked about what constitutes a proper tribute in the months following the Lokomotiv crash I’ve got to hand it to the Anaheim Ducks for absolutely leaving me frozen when I saw this picture. As you can see that is Aleksandro Salei, son of longtime Ducks defenceman Ruslan, on the ice at the Honda Centre with the Ducks for the national anthems.

I wanted to make sure that people had the opportunity to see this image as it serves as a reminder to all of us that it was more than a hockey team that was lost in that crash. It was also fathers, husbands, brothers, etc. – hockey was just the thing that bound them all together as teammates and with us, the fans.

I know I’ll be cheering for that Salei 24 jersey to make an appearance in the NHL once again in the not too distant future.